All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Four Weeks, Five People by Jennifer Yu

on May 26, 2017

Four Weeks, Five People
Jennifer Yu
Harlequin Young Adult AUS
2017, 352p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Obsessive-compulsive teen Clarissa wants to get better, if only so her mother will stop asking her if she’s okay.

Andrew wants to overcome his eating disorder so he can get back to his band and their dreams of becoming famous.

Film aficionado Ben would rather live in the movies than in reality.

Gorgeous and overly confident Mason thinks everyone is an idiot.

And Stella just doesn’t want to be back for her second summer of wilderness therapy.

As the five teens get to know one another and work to overcome the various disorders that have affected their lives, they find themselves forming bonds they never thought they would, discovering new truths about themselves and actually looking forward to the future.

I write this review as a person who has never been diagnosed with a mental illness, so obviously there will be things in this book that I perhaps don’t understand or am unaware of.

The book revolves around four troubled teenagers who instead of spending their summers at a camp with their friends or at home doing whatever they wish, are attending a therapy camp for various reasons. Stella is very angry, Andrew took his edgy band look too far and is recovering from anorexia, Clarisa has OCD, Ben can’t separate fantasy from reality and Mason has narcissistic personality disorder. They are all very different and none are particularly happy about spending the summer this way.

I didn’t love this. In fact I really struggled with it, it took me almost three days to read it and it’s not a long book at all. I found none of the teenagers particularly appealing with the possible exception of Andrew, the character that seemed to be troubled the most. Being inside Andrew’s head was the only time when I thought the book came close to really hitting the sort of emotional mark it was aiming for. Andrew is obsessed with his weight – he’s in a band and they’re pretty good, maybe going somewhere. It started as a bit of a joke, a competition, getting a bit thin and emaciated looking, because that’s what boys in those bands look like. But somewhere along the line the others stopped and Andrew….didn’t. And now he can’t stop. He has to eat properly at camp and every meal has him hunched miserably over his plate, knowing they’re watching and his self-loathing with every mouthful is evident. Weigh-ins are traumatic.

But the rest of the time, it just felt like a few teens at a camp with no real activities. You don’t get a front seat to most of the therapy sessions and to be honest the two counselors that are assigned to these five struck me as borderline incompetent, especially with what occurs in the late stages of the book. There’s a lot of basically just letting them argue and one of the counselors constantly pulling Stella up on her language. It didn’t feel like a genuine camp that was addressing the problems these teens were having. Half the time the narrative is focused on what they get up to during their contraband drinking sessions and it seems ridiculously easy to both smuggle in items (Stella brings everything on the banned list, even things she doesn’t want or need just to prove that she can) and do whatever they want. None of the counselors are ever the wiser, even though one time they leave shot glasses out in plain sight. Clarisa has never drunk before but downs shots like a pro.

I’m aware that four weeks isn’t long in terms of recovery from anything but I didn’t really notice all that much growth towards recovery happening here at all. Mason is still the same insufferable person he is at the end that he was at the beginning. Ben is still struggling with living in the real world, conducting voiceovers and dramatic montages inside his head. Clarisa and Stella do seem to make some sort of improvement but it’s not really explored how it came to be other than one conversation Stella has with one of the counselors that just doesn’t do enough for me. I thought that Stella’s background needed to be explored a lot more. It’s kind of dribbled out in bits and pieces but even then it’s not as in depth as it could’ve been.

Unfortunately the biggest issue was just that this book was….bland. I was bored most of the time I was reading it. It’s just a random collection of the teens arguing, maybe a snapshot of an activity and then a bit of after lights-out drinking, repeat. There was an opportunity here I think, to tackle a couple of forms of mental illness and really portray them in a realistic way but it seems like the focus isn’t really actually on the illnesses. However I couldn’t actually decide what the focus was on because it didn’t really seem like it was on anything at all. It certainly wasn’t a recommendation for camps like that one, should they exist.


Book #95 of 2017

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